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High-flying drones to find water leaks

Drones equipped with infrared camera technology could be a key future tool for detecting leaking underground water pipes in arid regions, according to new research from Nottingham Trent University.

Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh led a study to show how infrared imaging can detect large leaks invisible to the human eye and help reduce the vast volumes of water lost through leaking and broken pipes.

The research shows how high and low resolution infrared cameras can be used from height to detect the change in temperature of sand which occurs when leaking water underground evaporates from its surface.

The system would use GPS to pinpoint the exact location of the leak, speeding up the time taken to perform repairs. The researchers theorised that smaller areas could be monitored by a quadcopter drone, whereas for greater distances, an inflated zeppelin anchored to the back of a vehicle that is driven along pipeline routes would suffice.

"Water is one of the most precious commodities around the world, but significant quantities are lost on a daily basis through leaking and broken pipes," Al-Habaibeh said.

"What we are proposing is a non-contact and high-speed system that can be used remotely to detect changes in humidity over vast areas of desert."

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